Tuesday, 28 May 2013

Owen's View: Looking to extend brand reach – at the cinema

Robert Downy Jnr as Tony Stark in Iron Man 3
Robert Downy Jnr. as Tony Stark in Iron Man 3.
Having just watched Iron Man 3, which I really enjoyed, I found myself particularly drawn to those brands and their products both obviously (Audi and Oracle) and subtly (ABB and FIOS products) injected into the movie. I even missed some, which others have since highlighted.

It is almost laughable now how brand product placement is something we come to expect as part of our movie experience. Not since Minority Report have I been blown away how cinema can exploit the captive audience of the cinema. 

Do you know what this little icon means?
Product Placement Icon
The 'PP' icon used in the UK for programmes
containing product placement.
Product placement has been common on UK television since February 2011, when the 'PP' symbol was introduced. The EU define product placement as "any form of audiovisual commercial communication consisting of the inclusion of or reference to a product, a service or the trade mark thereof so that it is featured within a programme".

This form of advertising is popular due to its ability to show products in context, for example how people interact with products, and how a product interacts with its environment. This facilitates an emotional connection between the product and the audience. Product placement on commercial television has been common practice in the US for a lot longer than in the UK.

However, long before television entered our homes, product placement was already taking place in the cinema, with the earliest instances taking place around 1895! More recent, and much more well-known, instances of product placement include a Capital One credit card in 127 Hours, Domino's Pizzas in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Nike trainers in The Terminator, and Heineken lager in Skyfall.

Is product placement effective?

An obvious use of product placement in Wayne's World - Pizza Hut
One of the sarcastically obvious product placements in
'Wayne's World'.
Quite simply, yes it is. There are several ways to measure the effectiveness of product placement, one being implicit memory. A study used the film 'Home Alone' to test the product placement of Pepsi. One group of children watched a clip of the film featuring Pepsi, and when asked to pick between Pepsi and Coke, 67% of the children chose Pepsi. Out of a group of children who watched clip of 'Home Alone' which did not feature the soft drink, only 42% chose Pepsi.

Studies have also shown that a number of factors can affect the success of a product placement, including the attractiveness of the characters, and the degree of subtlety used when placing the product. The 1992 film 'Wayne's World' did a great job of highlighting how to do product placement badly in their parody. In the scene both Wayne and Garth decry product placement while at the same time blatantly promoting many products by looking directly at the camera, holding up the product, smiling widely, and sometimes giving a thumbs-up. 

And as for Iron Man 3...

The main product that I was drawn towards through the excitement, action, thrill and MARVEL madness was the Audi R8. This is more than likely why I really like the super car and Audi as a brand but one thing I did not notice was the fact that Audi appear to have category exclusivity in the film. It has been pointed out that one of the cars in the film is a Mustang, however does not carry the Mustang logo.
One of the Audi's used in Iron Man 3
Audi take centre stage in the Iron Man movies.

I was also intrigued by some of the sunglasses Tony Stark was wearing. Several eyewear brands were represented throughout the film but the one that caught my eye was the luxury brand Matsuda, who have a very cool website! You can also check them out on Twitter.

And of course MARVEL did not forget to advertise the Avengers franchise with their trademark bonus clip after the credits!

However, it has been questioned whether product placement was taken too far in Iron Man 3, especially in the chinese version. Chinese audiences we treated to an extra 4 minutes of footage, but from the reviews it seems that most of this footage was used to promote a cheap chinese milk brand!

What about the future?

Product placement occurs everywhere; in our streets, on our screens, in our books, everywhere. Are we as creatives going to be asked to persue further avenues to promote and advertise a brand's products and services? Red Bull have already gone to the heady heights of space to push the boundaries, we're pretty sure that if practicality hadn't have gotten in the way Felix would have been enjoying a can just before he jumped to earth...

Felix about to jump from space
Notice how his suit is Red Bull branded.
We'd love to hear what you thought of Iron Man 3, and what you think about product placement in general. Leave us a comment or tweet us @ubd_studio.

Sources of Information: